St John Ambulance

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St John Ambulance
Formation1877; 147 years ago (1877)
Parent organisation
Order of Saint John (chartered 1888)
500,000[citation needed]

St John Ambulance is the name of a number of affiliated organisations in mostly Commonwealth countries which teach and provide first aid and emergency medical services, and are primarily staffed by volunteers. The associations are overseen by the international Order of St John and its priories (national branches).


The first such organisation to be founded was the St John Ambulance Association, which was founded on 10 July 1877 in England to teach first aid in large railway centres and mining districts.[1] Its first uniformed first-aiders were founded in June 1887 as the St John Ambulance Brigade.[1][2] On 14 May 1888, the Order of St John was granted royal charter by Queen Victoria.[3] In 1908, the organisation ceased operation in Scotland on mutual agreement with the St Andrew's Ambulance Association.

In 1974, the St John Ambulance Association and the St John Ambulance Brigade were amalgamated to form the St John Ambulance Foundation.

St John Ambulance now have over 40 national organisations, many of which are affiliated with Johanniter International, and over 300,000 volunteers worldwide.[1]

The Order of St John owns the brand name in most countries (with the notable exception of India, which has a St John Ambulance organisation that is unconnected to the international movement). Logos vary in different countries but always contain the eight-pointed white Maltese cross as the essential identifier. Like the Order, St John Ambulance associations accept members of all religions. Their geographic organisation differs from the Order, and they have to contend with the differing national laws, medical practices and cultures of countries. As a result, the role and organisation of St John Ambulance varies by country.


The legal status of each organisation varies by country, province, state, county, territory and municipality. In both England and Wales the resident St John Ambulance organisations are simultaneously but separately registered as charities and companies, whereas St John Ambulance South Africa (for example) is a distinct entity registered as a "public benefit organisation".

The presence of St John Ambulance is different among countries:

St John Ambulance were traditionally organised with military-style ranks. Some associations have replaced these with civilian titles (e.g. Unit Manager, Superintendent).

Johanniter International[edit]

In the aftermath of World War II, British soldiers established Saint John brigades in Germany. In cooperation with the Johanniter Orden (the Protestant German Order of Saint John), the Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe was founded in 1952. In recent years, more national Saint John societies, not directly linked to the British St John Ambulance, have been founded in Europe, notably in Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Poland.

At the international meeting of the governing bodies of the Orders of Saint John in the course of celebrations to mark the Order's 90th anniversary in 1999, the idea to cooperate more intensively within Europe was born. As a result, Johanniter International (JOIN) today links sixteen national Saint John organisations all over Europe.

Relationship with the Order[edit]

Logo of the Order of St John.

The Order of Saint John, formally the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, is an international order of chivalry which is headquartered in the United Kingdom. The Order founded the St John Ambulance associations and oversees their work. They also own the rights to the St John name and brand, including the Maltese Cross logo. The Order also oversees the St John Eye Hospital Group, which is separate from the ambulance associations. Most members of St John Ambulance are not themselves members of the Order, and vice versa, so a major presence of the Order does not dictate a major presence of St John Ambulance.

See also[edit]

Topics related to St John Ambulance and the Order:

Similar movements:


  1. ^ a b c The Difference – newsletter from St John Ambulance, (Nov 2014) p4 "A Brief History of St John Ambulance"
  2. ^ M Durrant (1948) American Journal of Nursing 48 (12) pp763–765 "St. John Ambulance Brigade"
  3. ^ "History in Summary". St John International. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  4. ^ "St John Gibraltar". Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  5. ^ "St John PNG". Retrieved 23 January 2021.

External links[edit]